The story of Mother's Day is a story of gentle, yet bold Christian love that was passed from generation to generation. How did it start? The first Mother's Day began in a church in Grafton, West Virginia, where on May 8, 1908, Mrs. Ann M. Jarvis was honored by her daughter, Miss Anna Maria Jarvis. Ann was 12 when her father, Josiah Reeves, was appointed to a Methodist church in Philippi, West Virginia. Seven years later she married Granville E. Jarvis, son of the Baptist minister in Philippi. They had seven children in Taylor County, West Virginia, where Mrs. Jarvis organized and conducted "mother's work clubs" in Philippi, Webster, Prunytown, Fetterman, and Grafton.
The mother's groups were work clubs started to mobilize the mothers of a community to fight the problems of disease, poor health, and improper sanitation. Five of her seven children’s deaths can be attributed to these issues. When the Civil War erupted, the Methodist churches in many of these villages were taken over by Union troops with soldiers from Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. When an epidemic of typhoid fever and measles broke out among the soldiers, the general asked if the mothers' clubs would help care for the sick. They did.
When the war was over, Union and Confederate veterans returned to the same communities, the same churches, and in many cases the same family had members who fought for opposite sides. People braced themselves for the feuds and hatred that would consume local communities. Mrs. Jarvis reactivated her "mothers' work clubs," and began working with local county authorities to form a new celebration in 1868 called Mother's Friendship Day. The idea was that each member of the club would bring her entire family together for this special day, and mix them throughout the crowd. It was hoped that people would mingle, rather than split up into two sides. Songs were sung and ceremonies were conducted. People shook each other’s hands, and unity was achieved. Mother’s Friendship Days were an annual event throughout Mrs. Jarvis’ life. She died in 1905.
At the funeral of Mrs. Jarvis, her daughter, Miss Anna M. Jarvis, pledged to establish a memorial to Mother’s Friendship Day, and on May 10, 1908, the first annual Mother’s Day service was conducted at Andrew Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution confirming and setting aside the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.
Ann Jarvis used her "mother’s love" to spread the love of Jesus at a time when our nation was tender and needing care. Perhaps this same love could help our communities and nation today to unite in compassion, love, and peace for one another. John 13:34-35 records these words of Jesus: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the special women in our lives who are reading this.